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Puny humans, we’ve been watching your planet since it was created. 6,000 years ago. By God

Or a post about life, the universe, and everything. But mostly the universe.

This post will be rambling in nature, you’ve been warned.

About once every few years, I go through this phase wherein I ponder the nature of the universe. As opposed to the rest of the time, when I could apparently give a fuck less because I got shit to do. Since this is the first time where I’ve gone through that phase while having a blog, I figured I’d bore the shit out of you err entertain you with it. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve read any Hawking or Sagan, so a lot of this crap is from memory, and mine is usually faulty. If I’m wrong about something, let me know as it may make my pondering easier. So, a few notes on my understanding of the universe based on crap I read many years ago:

1 – At one point in time, there was this big ass thing. Well, we don’t know really if it was big ass but it was massive. And they don’t really know what this thing was but take their word for it, it was massive. This thing may not have actually been a thing either as it currently is viewed as a mathematical concept. Apparently, it was so massive that all the stuff that is currently in the universe comprised this big ass thing, which seems to indicate it was a big ass thing and not a big ass mathematical concept. So, it was probably at least as massive as a 1965 Buick Wildcat. At some point, the big ass thing got so big ass that, instead of crushing itself under its own big assness, it exploded, which makes no sense. But that’s what they say. This explosion (called either The Big Bang or Let there be light, depending on who you talk to) created the universe as we know it. All that stuff in the big ass thing turned into a bunch of small ass things that were immediately hurled out into space – and don’t even get me started on space. Nevermind, I’ll get started on space. That’s the other thing about the universe: sure there’s a lot of stuff in it but there’s more lack of stuff than anything else. They call this lack of stuff space.

2 – At some point all that stuff created will get as far as it can get and then it will turn around and head back to the middle to rejoin the big ass thing that it was once a part of, kind of like a paddle ball. This is referred to (by me, anyway) as a collapse but people who study this crap call it The Big Crunch or Armageddon, depending on who you talk to. This happens due to gravity or invisible men in the sky, again depending on who you talk to. We’re apparently still in the exploding phase of this process as (they say) the universe is getting bigger. Which is good news, I suppose. I mean it beats knowing that we’re collapsing. That’d be depressing. So, at some point, all things will rejoin the big ass thing and we’ll all die at the hands of a mathematical concept.

3 – This process perpetuates, which is to say that this big ass thing explodes, collapses, explodes again, and collapses again. Seemingly, forever.

4 – The universe is definitely finite. Or definitely infinite. There’s some disagreement on that. Regardless, it’s pretty fucking big. It has to be since it holds all our stuff. But I think most people seem to think it’s finite.

5 – The universe is really, really old. It’s so old that we (well, I) can’t even begin to fathom how old it is. It’s been around an estimated 13.7 billion years ( 200 million years).

6 – The universe (and I’m not making this up, I swear I read it in a Hawking’s book) is shaped roughly like a banana. It’s not important to the discussion but I thought you’d like to know. And, of course, it implies that the universe is finite.

So, this leads me to my pondering:

In the life of the universe, I am (heck, the whole of human existence for that matter is) totally insignificant. This, of course, leads me to wonder about my own insignificance. Am I insignificant in the way that feminists are insignificant in elections? Which is to say, I serve no greater purpose? Or am I insignificant in the way a red blood cell is insignificant? Which is to say, that while an individual red blood cell is in fact insignificant, the totality of all red blood cells is quite significant. Or, put another way, am I a cog in well-oiled machine? Or just a byproduct of the machine’s production.

If the universe is, in fact, finite, where the hell is it? If we assume it’s not everything, well, it has to be somewhere. And if it is finite, are there more? And where are they? And will we ever run into another one? And if it is finite, where the hell did all the space come from. And where exactly is it?

If the universe is infinite, then there has to be infinite me’s. Which makes me not insignificant, after all there are an infinite number of me’s out there. Spooky. Also, if it is infinite (which I don’t really buy, by the way), well, I can’t comprehend that as it would still have to be somewhere as far as I’m concerned. And, of course, if it is infinite, the big bang seems to imply that while it is infinite in terms of space, it’s probably not infinite in terms of the stuff in it, which means there likely aren’t infinite me’s out there. ETA: And, if infinite, it may just be a bunch of space with an inifinite number of big ass things exploding and collapsing all the time.

Since it’s really, really old, what was around before it was? You know, what was here, say, 15 billion years ago? Just a big ass thing and some space?

This leads me to my conclusion, which is that the existence of the universe [which seems to be perfectly aligned to create itself, create life, and create cool things (like Double Stuf Peanut Butter Oreos and Buick Wildcats)] indicates the existence of a higher power. Or that everything (including Oreos and Buick Wildcats) is a remarkable series of coincidences. Either seems likely to me.

If there is a higher power, where did it come from? Does God have a God? Does God’s God have a God? And we start the pondering infinite and perpetual loops again. Not only does the universe perpetuate itself, it perpetuates the pondering of itself.

19 Responses to “Puny humans, we’ve been watching your planet since it was created. 6,000 years ago. By God”

  1. gattsuru Says:

    Usually Big Crunchists believe that there’s a maximum distance for the universe, if not for space. They can actually make decent assumptions on the farthest two particles in the universe are, at least if you think of making up theories and unobserved data as a “decent assumption”. Some particles are theorized to move faster than the speed of light in a vaccum, though, so it’s a lot bigger than the easy c * t would estimate.

    I’ve never understood the desire to anthromorphize the universe into “start” and “end” states, but that’s just me.

    Anyway, the point of the religions creationism is to postulate a situation where there aren’t any paradoxes : god doesn’t need to come from anywhere, he/she/it could have always been around, or have just naturally formed. If a God can transform water into a wine or create a universe, it’s fairly obvious conservation of energy and matter doesn’t really apply. Meanwhile, Big Bangist theories tend to rely on a swarm of energy splitting off from a different membrane/string of reality, or just ignoring the question of where it all came from.

  2. JustinB Says:

    I have always wondered about Gods, God, God. He must be one really old dude….

  3. Jay G Says:

    (called either The Big Bang or Let there be light, depending on who you talk to)

    I prefer The Horrendous Space Kablooey as championed by the eminent thinker Calvin (that would be the Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, not John Calvin…)

  4. ben Says:

    My biggest question is: why isn’t there simply nothing? Empty space is not nothing, btw. I can’t even imagine nothing. I sortof can, but just as soon as I have a mental image of “nothing,” it is gone, fleeting.

    Now consider this, puny human:

    Now we may look at the most important simple fact aout knowledge or thought — reflected in languages — namely its absolute, incredible limitation to the terms of our organic existence, that is, matter, space and time…

    Ways of thought are embodied in the ways of language, and all languages have the same parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs. Language can be improved to express thought quite closely, but it never goes beyond the same parts of speech and never creates new ones. It is a virtual miracle that peoples who never even heard of each other maintain the same laws in their languages without failing once…

    But there is an absolute proof for [the generality of the laws of language]. All the philosophers, scientists and linguists of the world, laboring together, could not invent one word that would not be a noun, verb or other part of speech and would still have meaning. [Yada yada and a snipe at Chomsky (this book was written in 1979)].

    — D.G. Garan, The Key to the Sciences of Man

    Anyway, I find this stuff to be very fascinating. We’re all a bunch of simps, and don’t even know it. Garan goes on to say:

    …because of the relativity of cognition, any knowledge that explains most or satisfies best seems meaninglessly simple or blank [e.g. the garbage is smelly –ed] …Conversly, cognition seems richest where it is deficient, or acutely busy, where the nonknowledge, needs to know or questions are most extensive [how big is the universe and why am I a puny human?] …the deepest, most “philosophical” and fruitful truths are those which are so simple, or commonplace that they are never seen by philosophers as being worthy of their attention.

    Anyway, strive onward, puny human! Just know that your striving is amusing to the creator, much as our children amuse us when they try to understand where babies come from. Heh.

  5. ben Says:

    Now why did the font go all bold ‘n stuff? I didn’t intend it. Talk about a deficiency in cognition.

  6. SayUncle Says:

    Ben, for some reason if there’s not a break after blockquotes it bolds stuff. dunno why.

  7. PawPaw Says:

    dude! You’ve been sitting near the bong again, haven’t you?

  8. Sarah Says:

    Uncle,

    Interesting post. But I’m curious how recently you read this “banana” thing. Are you sure you didn’t get it from a Monty Python skit? 😛 Anyway, a finite, or “closed,” universe is spherical in geometry, not bananical, and astrophysicists do not believe that the universe is closed. The best evidence at the moment sez that the geometry of the universe it is very nearly flat, and that means the universe will continue to expand until infinity. It also means the “big crunch” scenario is out. The universe had a definite beginning point, and it will likely continue on forever.

    Since its really, really old, what was around before it was? You know, what was here, say, 15 billion years ago? Just a big ass thing and some space?

    That’s the thing with this kind of speculation, Uncle. There was no such thing as time until we had matter in the universe, which was created as a result of the big bang — so you can’t ask what came “before” it. And since space was created in the big bang, you can’t speculate about what was “there” “before” the big bang either. (Which is why Genesis begins with the beginning, by the way.)

    Which makes me not insignificant, after all there are an infinite number of mes out there.

    I’d be careful with this line of reasoning. Why should someone care, e.g. if he runs you over with his car while you’re crossing the street — unless you can convince him that there is something unique and therefore worth preserving about the particular you who happens to be crossing the street at that moment. Out of an infinite number of Uncles, that probability goes to zero.

  9. SayUncle Says:

    Are you sure you didnt get it from a Monty Python skit?

    No, I swear I read that in A Brief History of Time. But my memory is bad so I may have made it up.

    astrophysicists do not believe that the universe is closed. The best evidence at the moment sez that the geometry of the universe it is very nearly flat, and that means the universe will continue to expand until infinity. It also means the big crunch scenario is out. The universe had a definite beginning point, and it will likely continue on forever.

    And how exactly do we know all that? It does contradict what I’ve read but, as I said, I read it all long ago.

    There was no such thing as time until we had matter in the universe, which was created as a result of the big bang so you cant ask what came before it.

    Err, yeah I can. That no time thing is a cop out. There was a point where there was no universe. So, what was there? And where was it?

  10. Terry Says:

    Uncle—interesting post.

    To me, there are some things that are beyond reason. I look not just at myself, but at my kids, as I’m sure you do. I wonder…are they just chance?

    Are the things I feel, like love, just an accident…random products of colliding forces? I can’t believe they are.

    Uncle, I believe in purpose and significance. You might pick up a C.S. Lewis book sometime. I say this not to try and persuade you…but because he was a life long atheist and he asks some of your same questions. He’s an intellectual like yourself, and though you may disagree with him, but he might offer some other questions to ponder.

  11. Sarah Says:

    Uncle,

    The curvature of space is determined by the density of “stuff” in it. Cosmologists have used finely detailed measurements of the cosmic background radiation (the echo of the big bang) to determine the density, which, it turns out, corresponds to a flat geometry. The universe will expand forever. This explains the idea a bit.

    As for the time thing, my phrasing was inelegant. In the big bang model of the universe, time simply did not exist before we had matter. This is very troubling to some people, because, as humans, time is intrinsic to our existence in the universe, like water is to a fish — it’s the only thing we’ve known and it’s hard to imagine anything else. The way you framed the question of what was around before the big bang — i.e. if the universe is 13.7 billion years old, what was around 15 billion years ago — is a non-sequitur. However, you are correct that we can speculate about what exists beyond the four dimensions of spacetime, but not in the physical/temporal way in which we consider events within them (hence, no speculating about what was around at T-1.3 billion years). Gerald Schroeder, a physicist and theologian, explains it in his book, The Hidden Face of God

    The further philosophical problem of there having been a beginning arises with the idea that the beginning of our universe marks the beginning of time, space, and matter. Before our universe came into being, there is every scientific indication that time did not exist. Whatever brought the universe into existence must of course predate the universe, which in turn means that whatever brought the universe into existence must predate time. That which predates time is not bound by time. Not inside of time. In other words, it is eternal. If the laws of physics, or at least some aspect of the laws of physics, did the job of creation, those laws by necessity are eternal.

    So, yeah, that’s what I was trying to lead up to before. If we have a beginning to the universe, that necessarily points to something outside of the universe that is eternal.

  12. SayUncle Says:

    The way you framed the question of what was around before the big bang i.e. if the universe is 13.7 billion years old, what was around 15 billion years ago is a non-sequitur.

    I disagree. There was a point when there was no universe (you can measure it in time or pickles, it doesn’t matter to me), so what was there? And where was it? Also, you implied earlier that the universe was infinite and spherical. If it’s infinite, can it really have shape? I was googling and, apparently, current thinking is that the universe is either:

    infinite
    spherical
    saddle shaped (sort of bananacal)
    flat

    I’m not trying to be a smart ass, i’m just curious.

  13. Sarah Says:

    What you said before is indeed a non-sequitur. Even though you can ask what predates, or exists outside of, the universe, you can’t ask what was there in terms of increments of time. Time was created in the big bang — it didn’t exist before — so it makes no sense to ask what was around 1.3 billion years before the big bang or 2 minutes before or vierzehn bananozeconds before, or whatever.

    Here is a really good cosmology tutorial that explains this stuff.

    The universe is flat in shape, not spherical. Spherical geometry corresponds to a finite universe that will eventually collapse on itself. Our universe, according to recent data, is flat and infinite.

    There are three different models for the universe:

    Hyperbolic: open and infinite

    – Negative curvature to space — geometry is saddle-shaped (or banana-shaped, I guess)

    – universe has sub-critical density — this means there isn’t enough stuff in the universe to gravitationally halt the expansion

    – expansion of universe will reach a terminal velocity and continue expanding at that rate forever.

    Spherical: closed and finite

    – Positive curvature to space — geometry is spherical (or orange-shaped, to keep the fruit theme)

    – universe has super-critical density — this means there’s enough stuff in the universe to gravitationally halt the expansion

    – expansion of universe will eventually slow down, stop, and reverse — “big crunch.”

    Flat: open and infinite

    – No curvature to space — geometry is flat (or, uh… no fruit analog)

    – density of the universe = critical density — this means there is exactly enough stuff in the universe to gravitationally halt the expansion at infinite time

    – expansion of universe will continue until infinite time.

    Current data (from the WMAP experiment) sez we live in a more-or-less flat universe, which is infinite in time.

  14. SayUncle Says:

    Thanks for the link. It’s all theories, I realize. The fact remains you can ask what pre-dates the universe (i did). As i said, I don’t care if you measure the ‘when’ in terms of what predates or in years. It’s a valid question. That is to say, before there was stuff, what was there?

  15. Sarah Says:

    You may not care about the measuring, Uncle, but it makes a difference. Since time didn’t exist until the act of creation, it means whatever caused the creation is outside of time — it’s eternal. The “whatever” could be God or something else. What it boils down to is this. If you believe the big bang happened, and the data strongly support this, then you have to accept that an eternal supernatural something exists. Logically, that’s the way it works. It’s why some people in the scientific realm (secular types) have a huge philosophical beef with the big bang. But anyway, the question of what created the something or where it comes from, etc., becomes moot if you accept this argument. If something is eternal, it was never created, which means it doesn’t need a creator, etc., etc. The big questions are, is this eternal supernatural thing that created the universe conscious or unconscious, and ultimately how do we humans fit into the whole scheme of things? I’m still trying to work that last one out.

  16. SayUncle Says:

    Since time didnt exist until the act of creation

    Time doesn’t exist anyway, it’s rather a man-made construct, don’t you think?

    Im still trying to work that last one out.

    Aren’t we all 😉

  17. SayUncle » Well, that’s depressing Says:

    […] The universe: somebody stop it before in kills someone. And we all know how I feel about the universe. I guess it beats getting killed by a mathematical concept. […]

  18. SayUncle » Oblivion: It’s like a good long nap Says:

    […] I said here: About once every few years, I go through this phase wherein I ponder the nature of the universe. As opposed to the rest of the time, when I could apparently give a fuck less because I got shit to do. […]

  19. SayUncle » We are not from here Says:

    […] The universe continues to piss me off. […]

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